Sunday, March 6, 2016

Unhinged - Slasher In The Old Dark House

(D) Don Gronguist
Unrated - Approx 79 Min
Released October 15, 1982

 - The Nightmare Begins When You Wake Up

 - Get your slice from the reaper. Violence beyond reason, Victims beyond help.

Alternate Titles:

"Don't give me that crap, Marion!  A lot of really weird things are going on around here. Breathing, strange sounds, your Mother, now faces at the window. I can't stand it!"
                                                                                - Terry

I'm sure I've said it here before, but I'll say it again, many times I'm sure.  There's nothing I love more than discovering a hidden gem, especially when when then seemingly come out of nowhere.  I'd never heard of this film before and when I went to research the VHS cover art (figuring it would trigger a memory from video store days) I realized that I was onto something on the rarer side.

By the way the VHS artwork is pretty dang swanky.  I love that The Reaper is holding a big bloody knife instead of a scythe.  On the downside, the killer is not dressed as The Reaper....though someone is killed with a scythe while the killer is wearing a hooded raincoat, so I guess that's sort of Reaperish, right?  Right.

The film follows three girls who get into a car crash on their way to a music festival.  During the ride we hear a news report of two girls having gone missing from a nearby campground, adding to the growing list of disappearances in the region.  After crashing their car en route, they are taken in by a woman named Marion and her mother who live in a big old creepy mansion.  Two of the girls (Terry and Nancy) are only slightly banged up, however their friend Gloria is a bit more injured and is bed-bound.

Terry and Nancy attend dinner with Marion and her mother and discover that the matriarch of the family has some serious anger issues when it comes to her husband and men in general.  She's also a pretty massive bitch to her daughter and all around just an old battle ax.  after an uncomfortable meal, the girls play a game of dominoes in the sitting room while Marion plays the piano.  Que heavy breathing and a shadowy figure spying on the girls from outside.

With both Marion and her mother acting weird, the shadowy figure lurking around and the general uncomfortable ambiance the house gives off (not to mention a thunderstorm every single night!) it becomes abundantly clear that something is not right around here.  The question is:  Who is that shadowy figure?

According to Marion the roads are washed out and the only way into town is to hike two or three miles through the woods, but warns that gives that hiking isn't a very good idea because the "woods are dangerous..."  Like we haven't heard THAT old chestnut before, eh?  Despite the warnings, Nancy decides to head for town to at least call her parents to let them know what's happened.  During the hike, Nancy is murdered by the aforementioned figure in a raincoat with a scythe, in a rare daytime slashing.

Who is behind the killings?  What secrets are Marion and her mother holding?  Why are there so many thunderstorms during October in Oregon?  Some of those questions WILL be answered by the end of Unhinged, but you've gotta watch to find out!

Now, I know that I just told you that this is a hidden gem of a slasher, but that comes with a bit of a disclaimer as well:  This movie is not going to appeal to everyone.  If you're a fan of early 80's slashers and you're expecting something on par with Friday the 13th, The Burning or Sleepaway Camp you're going to be disappointed.  However, if you're a fan of low budget regional cinema and you're in the mood for a slower paced slasher, you'll be alright.

The acting is downright bad.  Dialog is stilted and feels at times like it would be more at home in a live theatrical play than in film, but knowing that most of the cast and crew are local Oregonians (and the actress playing Marion (Janet Penner) comes from a theatrical background) I'm willing to bet that's where most have their experience.

Bad acting however, does not make a bad movie.  When you take that bad acting and stilted dialog and combine it with a pretty rad electronic synth score (of course add a dash or two of nudity and gore) and you've got yourself a strangely atmospheric little flick that is definitely getting put into my regular rotation!

If you go out and get the DVD, a word of warning:  DO NOT listen to the so called "Comedy Commentary" provided on the DVD.  It is nothing more than some MST3K wannabe's ripping the film apart in the most unfunny and juvenile ways.  I couldn't listen to more than 15 minutes of it before I turned it off.

Also provided as an extra is a local TV interview with writer/director Don Gronquist and star Janet Penner.  It is quite possibly one of the most awkward and uncomfortable interviews I have seen in recent memory.  Gronquist looks like he was very nervous and frequently freezes and takes long pauses in his answers, often times not making much sense.  I felt really bad for the guy.

While it's not gratuitous, there is some decent gore on display here.  The aforementioned scythe slashing is just the start.  There's also an ax murder and a pretty brutal machete murder as well.  

Why yes indeed!  We get to see Terry and Nancy take a shower.  Well, actually we get to see Terry take two showers!  Watch out for some serious 80's bush!

A mysterious figure slashing up pretty young nubile girls!

Unhinged has a certain vibe to it that I really enjoyed.  It reminded me of when I was just out of high school.  Still living at home with Mom & Dad.  I worked at my beloved Video Paradise and also delivering for Domino's Pizza.  Sundays were my only day off, so on Saturday nights, I would take out four or five movies from the video store and watch them all day Sunday.  I've got many fond memories of rainy Sunday afternoons watching weird old slashers in my room, with a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Dr. Pepper.  Ahhhh, those were the days!

No comments:

Post a Comment